Dubai Customs has reiterated that smuggling exotic animals, their skins and endangered plants into the UAE is an offence punishable by law.
The warning comes on the back of a new awareness campaign about endangered animals launched in a bid to curb an alarming surge in incidents involving exotic animals.
“Imperiled animals under the convention of CITES, including, their skins and taxidermies, as well trees and plants should be disclosed at airports, sea and inland ports by passengers to Dubai Customs inspectors: otherwise, it will be considered illegal attempt of infiltration and shall be punishable in pursuant to the law,” Feryal Tawakul from Dubai Customs said in a statement.
The campaign, launched at Mirdif City Center Tuesday, follows days after a six-month old lion cub was put up for sale on Twitter. The cub, which attracted over 100 bidders offering at least AED30,000 (US$8,200), is part of a growing number of exotic animals that have wound up on the black market in the UAE.
Last month, a pet cheetah died after escaping from its cage in a private villa while a baboon was found wandering around Garden City. In February, a picture of a tiger hanging out of the window of a car driving in the Marina Promenade area proved a major hit on social networking websites.
Animal trafficking is thought to be the third most lucrative illegal industry after drugs and arms dealing, worth around US$10-US$20bn globally.
The UAE, a global trade hub, is a known hotspot for contraband due to a high demand for exotic pets, which are seen as symbols of power. Also making the UAE an attractive market, say local charities are good flight and shipping connections, which allow poachers to re-export the trafficked animals to other GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar.
The UAE Ministry of Environment last month said it is mulling new legislation to stop the practice of Emiratis owning exotic animals as pets.
CITES, a leading agency to prohibit the trafficking of wild animals, told Arabian Business last year that it had asked the UAE to explain an alarming surge in incidents involving exotic animals.
The 175-nation Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which aims to curb the trafficking of threatened animals, waned it may take action against the UAE.
“The CITES secretariat has contacted the management authority of the UAE and asked for its comments regarding a number of news items that suggest there is an illegal trade in live animals,” spokesperson Jonathan Barzdo said in a statement.